Tag Archives: Wish

The Context of the Pinterest Quote

“Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15 (NRSV)

We have increasingly become a culture that boils things down to simple thoughts. We gather quotes, sayings and images on social media. We try to say something or quote something worthwhile in the 140 characters that a tweet will allow. Everything is reduced to make it smaller, pithier, and more quickly consumed. And, in doing so we lose context. Without context things change and lose the fullness of meaning.

josh 24 15 grab edit

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” Joshua said in today’s chapter. These words can be found on countless Pinterest images (example above), plaques, wall hangings, keychains, bookmarks, pens, and etc. It’s a popular sentiment and statement of commitment. I’m afraid very few people know where it originated or its context.

Joshua, the chosen successor to Moses, is at the finish line of his life. He’s dying. His number is almost up and he knows it. He gathers the nation together around the Big Top – the great tent that had been Israel’s mobile worship center since the days of Moses himself.

Joshua recounts the story of the nations history from Abraham to their present day (“Where have we been?”).

Joshua reminds them of the blessings they are enjoying in the lands which had become their inheritance (“Where are we now?”)

Then Joshua calls them to commitment: “Choose this day whom you will serve…” (“Where are you going?”)

The call to commitment is not for Joshua himself. He’s done. He’s run his race. The answer to the question of commitment will have no bearing on him. He no longer has an earthly future. He’s making a declarative statement for his family. He will not have any power to enforce it, he will not be physically present to hold his family accountable to it, and he has no assurance that they will actually fulfill it. It is a  faith statement.

Joshua’s statement belies the real question that is weighing on his 110 year old heart: “What am I leaving behind?”

His statement, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” is far greater than the letters on a Pinterest post can provide to the casual observer. The depth of it cannot be realized in reading the mere words. It’s important to understand the whole story and the context in which the statement is made. This is a declaration of death-bed desire. It is a plea to his descendants. This is Joshua’s great and motivating want. It is the revelation of his dying wish and his heart’s pure and final longing.

Today, we come to the end of Joshua’s story. It is the final chapter in the book, and in a moment of unplanned synchronicity it falls on the day before my 50th birthday. Today, I find myself asking:

  • “Where have I been?”
  • “Where am I at?”
  • “Where am I going?”
  • “What will I leave behind?”

 

chapter a day banner 2015

featured image: Christmas Morning by Andrew Wyeth

 

Prayer and the Christmas Catalog

Source: Todd Lappin via Flickr
Source: Todd Lappin via Flickr

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:10 (NIV)

When I was a child, the annual arrival of the Sears Christmas catalog was a big deal. The giant selection of toys at the back of the catalog was poured over countless times. By early December the catalog was looking worn and dog eared from the constant flipping of pages. Many items got circled so I would remember to transpose them to my letter to St. Nick. My list for Santa contained a long list of the coolest looking toys, sports equipment and gadgets that a little boy could ask for.

There is a certain brand of Christians to whom I refer as the “Name it and Claim it Crew.” Made up mostly of televangelists and their ilk, this brand of believers approach God much like the giant lottery in the sky. Their teaching is focused on getting in on all the material blessings that God is dishing out much like Santa Claus, or perhaps more like Drew Carey on The Price is Right. If you listen long enough, you’ll hear the message subtly shift at some point into a spiritual ponzi scheme with the preacher taking on the mantel God’s investment broker: “You sacrificially send me and my ministry $100 and God will bless you with $1000 or more.”

Many years ago, there was a book that came out about the prayer of Jabez. We read Jabez’s prayer in today’s chapter. I’ve pasted it above. It’s a small nugget slipped into the seemingly endless genealogical lists we’re wading through in the book of Chronicles. The Prayer of Jabez made the bestseller list and I remember a period of time when the prayer was all the rage. At the time, I remember a lot of people approaching the prayer like some sort of magic incantation that eerily reminded me of The Name it and Claim it Crew.

Just yesterday in worship Wendy and I heard a message about praying powerful prayers. It prompted a conversation between us on the way home and continued while we prepared lunch. The reality is that we don’t always get what we pray for any more than a child gets every item on his Christmas wish list. Faith is not a game show or a lottery. God is not Santa Claus. What we wish for, what we need, and God’s ultimate purposes and provision can become a confusing menagerie.

I don’t believe that asking God for safety, favor, and blessing is wrong. I do it all the time. I even admit to regularly offering a loose facsimile of Jabez’s prayer in my on-going conversations with God. I am constantly, however, checking the motives of my own heart. In my mind, approaching God like some sort of material vending machine is to reduce Him into a lucky charm or one of the pagan idols He gets so worked up about. Doing so ends with me feeling like a bitter child, angry at Santa for not contractually delivering everything on the list and wondering which of my behavioral infractions kept me from getting that cool chemistry set.

Prayers and God’s purposes are so much deeper than a childish give-and-take. Paul wrote that when he was a child he spoke and acted like a child, but when he became a man he gave up childish things. I’m thinking this morning about the ways I slip into a “child at Christmas” thinking in my prayers and expectations of God. I confess that I do it more than I care to admit. Today, God and I are going to have a chat about that.

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Tom’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 1

If you could transport yourself to any place in the world at this moment, where would you go?

The key to this question, for me, is “at this moment.” With autumn in full swing and the chill of winter not far behind, I think I’d like to escape somewhere warm. And, while I’ll never have the opportunity to instantly transport myself again, I might as well take advantage and go someplace I’ll likely never get to again.

I think I’d like to go to an island in the South Pacific. Wendy has always wanted to go to one of those places where the doors on your suite open up right on to the beach and you can walk from your room to the ocean (the question didn’t specify, but I’m going to pretend it’s like a port key in Harry Potter, I’m insisting on grabbing Wendy when I’m instantly transported and taking her with me). I think a place like Fiji would be nice. Wendy and I sleep each night with a sound machine making the sound of ocean waves breaking on the shore. How cool would it be to sleep to the sounds of the actual ocean outside our room? And, eating a fabulous meal on the porch like in this picture?

How about you? Where would you want to be transported?

Chapter-a-Day Amos 4

Sears Christmas Catalog Wish Book 1981
Image by flashbacks.com via Flickr

People would stagger from village to village crazed for water and never quenching their thirst. But you never got thirsty for me. You ignored me.” God’s Decree. Amos 4:8 (MSG)

Our daughter was here the other day to borrow Christmas music. It’s that time of year. The holidays are almost upon us. It is the time of year when, as a child, the Sears & Roebuck Christmas “Wish Book” would arrive. Hour upon hour was spent pouring over the massive toy section. I made my wish list for Santa Claus.

There has never been a Christmas when the gifts I received fell short of my need. I may not have gotten everythiny on my wish list, but I always ended up with more than I really needed.

When you have little need, it’s easy to feel little need for God.

God, as we enter this holiday season, help me hunger and thirst for you more than anything else.

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Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 3

Sears Christmas Wish Book.  "Here's what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?" 1 Kings 3:9 (MSG)

As a child, there was nothing quite like the Sears Christmas "Wish Book" catalog that showed up in our house every autumn. Within days of its arrival, the extensive section of toys and games at the back of the catalog was dog-eared and worn from grubby little fingers flipping through the pages. My eyes poured over all the possibilities with an eye to figure out what to ask Santa to deliver.

As humans, we like to contemplate what we would ask for if suddenly given the opportunity to be granted whatever we wished. As children we play this game with Santa. We continue to contemplate the possibilities as we read stories about a genie in the bottle. As adults we contemplate our list of wishes as we buy a powerball ticket or enter the sweepstakes. And, we often approach God as though he is a similar sugar daddy type character.

The question is raised again as we read today's chapter and find Solomon weighing his option. When faced with the question Solomon looked at the enormity of the task before him and asked for wisdom to lead. I look into my own heart and ask if I can honestly say I have similar purity of intention. Too often I think that my heart has the same childish, self-centered motives it did when I sat in front of The Brady Bunch after school and poured over the Sears Wish Book for hours.

God, grant me purity of heart, that I might have the motivation to honestly ask you for the right things with the right intentions.